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The market for composite materials in China grew significantly in 2005. It is also a changing market, and although traditional converting processes are still widespread with respect to the total volumes converted, mechanised processes have rapidly gained ground. For the moment, the buoyant markets are wind energy, environment, automotive, railway transportation and boatbuilding.
(Published on May-June 2006 – JEC Magazine #25)
Glass-fibre production showed good results for 2005. Over the past few years, volume had been steadily increasing, even accelerating.
More specifically, the proportion of directmelt products increased (72.2%), with total output continuing to grow; the sales of medium-alkali glass microballoons and fibre products, however, remained stagnant.
In 2005, overall profits in the industry increased (close to RMB 2 billion with a 33% increase), albeit more slowly than for the corresponding period last year. The new varieties of glass-fibre products kept developing and the use of glassfibre- reinforced materials continued to expand, diversifying into areas such as the fabrication of composites and preforming processes.
Local production is now sufficient, as indicated by the decrease in import volume. At the same time, exports increased rapidly.
Vinyl-ester resin is used widely in chemical-corrosion-protection and FRP products.
Output increased from 7,072 tons in 2004 to 9,558 tons in 2005, or 35.2%. Gelcoat output (especially coloured gelcoats) also showed a rapid increase (up to 12,000 tons).
FRSP – Hand lay-up products
Year after year, the Chinese composite industry becomes more modern and industrialised. For a total 433,600-ton output in 2005, the share of hand lay-up processes decreased from 40.5% to 39.5%, or by 1%.
This trend was mitigated somewhat by the rapid growth of the FRP boat and yacht industry, resulting in higher demand for boat resins and rapid growth for gelcoats. Boat and yacht builders started to use vacuum-infusion and postcure technologies.
FRSP and FRP filament-wound products
The year 2005 was chaotic, with a 30% decrease in the first half compared to the corresponding period of 2004. Sales improved during the third quarter.
At 332,300 tons, the total output decreased by 3.4%. FRP push pipes were in widespread use in many cities such as Guangzhou and Shanghai.
In Guangzhou alone, the total length of push-pipe projects was 109 kilometres. Mortar-inclusive pipes were exported.
The sales of storage tanks in 2005 showed a 15% increase over the previous year, with a sales value of nearly RMB 400,000,000, and an output close to 16,000 tons.
The output of high-pressure pipes climbed to 3,200 tons, or the equivalent of 1,600 kilometres of pipeline.
The cable-protection pipe industry showed a sharp increase, with an annual output up to 30,000 tons. CNG bottles also recorded positive growth.
FRSP – Pultruded products
Here, production rose rapidly to an output of 101,000 tons, or a 7.5% increase.
The application fields showing steady growth were grilles, industrial sections, windows and doors, medical instruments, transportation, electricity, and communication instruments.
Exports in this area bring in the greatest amount of foreign exchange.
FRSP – Pressure moulded products
There were several notable developments in this area: - a modest 5.3% increase in total output, to 159,000 tons; - intense competition in the FRP auto-parts market (limited number of cars, many manufacturers, competition for lower prices, slow ROI); - railway transportation industry starting to use FRP products; - SMC/BMC products widely used in the high- and low-voltage electrical industry, with increasing volumes; - successful development of a rapid low-temperature forming technology.
FRSP – Continuous sheets
This sector grew rapidly, with an output up to 16,000,000 m2/y, or a 33.6% increase.
In this booming sector, we note: - manufacture of auto bumpers, hoods and other parts using GMT moulding; - the introduction of PP/GF knitted fabric for FRTP water-ski panel; - self-developed GMT assembly successfully trial-manufactured, output up to 2,600 tons per year;
- intense growth for FRTP, with a nearly 48% increase, and focus on the Zhujiang triangle zone.
Prospects for 2006
For the year 2006, the China FRP Industry Association is optimistic about the volumes that will be produced and also about the qualitative development of the processes used.
According to the Association’s assessment: - the whole industry is growing steadily; specifically, the use of mechanical forming processes will continue to grow and products from pultrusion, continuous-sheet, pressure-moulding and liquidmoulding processes will grow at a faster pace than the industry as a whole; - new areas for economic growth are FRP products such as wind-turbine blades and materials for environmental protection, as well as FRP products for automotive, railway transportation and boatbuilding; - the Chinese FRP market is attracting more and more interest from all over the world; - horizontal integration and reorganisation among enterprises is shifting the industrial structure towards intensification and technology; - the entire industry will see considerable improvements in its technology and management level; - environment-friendly materials and FRP waste recycling are being given more importance
Source: Lu Qin, Director Executive, China FRP Industry Association.